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Long Rides on a Tandem

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Old 06-21-18, 09:21 AM
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Long Rides on a Tandem

Hi,

I had been planning to do the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (186 miles in two days, lots of rolling hills) with our adult daughter; my wife felt it was too demanding for her to want to do it.

She changed her mind yesterday, and signed up.

That's great, except now we have a decision to make on which bike(s) to use, the tandem or our singles.

She has ridden very similar terrain for as much as 74 miles, so I am sure that with proper training, she can do this ride on her single bike. She will be much slower than our daughter and I would have been, which is ok; we have all day.

We're thinking that perhaps riding the tandem would be a good idea. There are two or three significant climbs on which we will struggle (but should be able to slog out way up without walking), but the vast majority is fairly flat, on which we're much faster on the tandem than she is on her single.

In the experience of other old couples (we're mid-60s) who are fit and reasonably athletic, is riding a tandem this far a good idea, or a bad one, relative to riding separate singles?

Thanks.

Mark
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Old 06-21-18, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Hi,

I had been planning to do the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver plus Party (186 miles in two days, lots of rolling hills) with our adult daughter; my wife felt it was too demanding for her to want to do it.

She changed her mind yesterday, and signed up.

That's great, except now we have a decision to make on which bike(s) to use, the tandem or our singles.

She has ridden very similar terrain for as much as 74 miles, so I am sure that with proper training, she can do this ride on her single bike. She will be much slower than our daughter and I would have been, which is ok; we have all day.

We're thinking that perhaps riding the tandem would be a good idea. There are two or three significant climbs on which we will struggle (but should be able to slog out way up without walking), but the vast majority is fairly flat, on which we're much faster on the tandem than she is on her single.

In the experience of other old couples (we're mid-60s) who are fit and reasonably athletic, is riding a tandem this far a good idea, or a bad one, relative to riding separate singles?

Thanks.

Mark
I personally would not (nor have I ever) want to be on a DF bicycle for 186 miles, no matter whether it was a tandem or not. That's why we have purchased a recumbent tandem specifically for the completion of half and full centuries and multi-day tandem rallies, etc. If you and your spouse have no issues with the distance, terrain or the time constraints, then I can't see why using a tandem to complete the tour would be in any way a "bad thing". Or a "good thing". It is simply an option, a choice for you two to make. For us there is no choice in the matter. 'J' is blind so we're taking the tandem and that is that. So "bad" definitely needs a context. For us the tandem option could never be, even remotely, a bad thing. If you are concerned about the physicality of Captaining the two of you over two days and 186 miles, well there is that, but I'm on the side of you both combining your efforts on the tandem.
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Old 06-21-18, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
I personally would not (nor have I ever) want to be on a DF bicycle for 186 miles, no matter whether it was a tandem or not. That's why we have purchased a recumbent tandem specifically for the completion of half and full centuries and multi-day tandem rallies, etc. If you and your spouse have no issues with the distance, terrain or the time constraints, then I can't see why using a tandem to complete the tour would be in any way a "bad thing". Or a "good thing". It is simply an option, a choice for you two to make. For us there is no choice in the matter. 'J' is blind so we're taking the tandem and that is that. So "bad" definitely needs a context. For us the tandem option could never be, even remotely, a bad thing. If you are concerned about the physicality of Captaining the two of you over two days and 186 miles, well there is that, but I'm on the side of you both combining your efforts on the tandem.
Thanks; that's helpful.

Yes, I'm trying to find the right balance between helping my wife with the ride and not exhausting myself. I'm thinking that the benefit of the tandem on all but the steep uphills may well be more than enough to make up for the work I'll have to do getting us up hills, but I don't know.
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Old 06-21-18, 01:04 PM
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My wife and I are admittedly far younger, but we find the tandem is the best tool for long rides. Inevitably on a really long ride, there will be times that each person isn't feeling their best. By sharing a bike, you'll be able to ride through those situations without having without having to meter your efforts. Even if one person bonks or cramps, the other can help in a meaningful way. There's little more demoralizing than riding separate single bikes with someone who doesn't have the energy to keep going -- and not being able to help.
My wife also finds it easier to eat, drink, and take pictures from the back of the tandem. As captain, I enjoy having unwrapped snacks handed to me. You'll both get that feeling of accomplishment by working together.
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Old 06-21-18, 04:57 PM
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From my perspective, riding a tandem is always better than riding separately on singles, regardless of the distance. Yes, at least one of you will probably go slower up hills than on a single. So what? You’ll be going as fast or faster on the flats and descents, and doing it all together as a team, sharing the sights, sounds and accomplishments instead of being separated by the crowds or hills. If you find tandeming better than riding separately on short rides, the same will be true on a long ride, maybe more so.
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Old 06-21-18, 05:09 PM
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From the standpoint of energy expenditure and leg tiredness I find a tandem to be a benefit regardless of the terrain. On the uphills it'll be slower than the faster rider on a single but still faster than the slower rider and on the flats and downhills it'll be faster than either rider by themselves.

The only caveat is that seat comfort can be an issue for the stoker due to not seeing upcoming bumps directly and reduced ability to make the little position adjustments we make while riding to relieve any discomfort. How significant that is depends on your wife's level of experience on the tandem. Has she done any long rides on the tandem? And how did she feel at the end of them?
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Old 06-21-18, 09:50 PM
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Our longest ride on the tandem to date was today, 35 relatively flat miles (700 feet of elevation gain). Her comfort was fine, given that we just got back from a long vacation with no bike riding, so we're not in the best shape. Our tandem has a BodyFloat 2.0 on the stoker's stem, which probably helps (although it make it harder for her not to bounce when pedaling with a lot of effort).

We've done a number of rides more than 50 miles on our single bikes, and I certainly like the fact that a tandem goes faster on fairly level ground than a single. Neither of us cares how slow we go up hills, as long as we don't have to walk.

We'll keep aggressively piling on the miles (and the hills, on occasion); we're becoming convinced that the tandem is the way to go.
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Old 06-22-18, 05:40 AM
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Tandem is going to better for riders with different levels of fitness to stay together. My wife and I have very different levels of fitness so rides of more than 15-20 miles on single bikes aren't much fun for either of us. For riders with similar fitness levels, I would prefer single bikes.
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Old 06-22-18, 10:13 AM
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It depends on how you get along in each situation. Do you have much experience tandeming? If not, there could be stress between you. The same goes for riding distance on singles. If you don't have much experience tandeming, are you adaptable, or does one or both of you get grumpy when challenges present themselves? Which kind of bike do you think will present those challenges? I got our tandem to even out our differences in abilities, and it does that, but it presents different kinds of challenges.
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Old 06-22-18, 12:30 PM
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One issue with riding a tandem long distances is that people tend to move around less on the tandem than a single bike, which leads to fatigue.

You can manage that by making a conscious effort to stand periodically, and change positions.

Ultimately it's all what you're used too. Our long ride on the tandem is 167 miles Cross Florida (one day).
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Old 06-22-18, 12:54 PM
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We only bought the tandem six weeks ago, and we were away for three of those weeks. But we're riding a lot (have well over 300 miles on it), and we will continue to ride it preparing for the long ride.

I'm not worried about our skills on the bike, or about our communication; we're doing well, and we have two more months to learn. I am becoming convinced that the benefits of the tandem (faster with less effort on level ground; evens up our strength, so she can "keep up" without killing herself) well outweigh riding separately.

We'll be stopping once an hour (or perhaps a bit more often) to move, and give our butts a break. And to hydrate and eat (there's some support on the ride, and we'll be going through small towns regularly, where we can get more fluids and chocolate).

Thanks; this has been helpful.

Mark
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Old 06-22-18, 01:40 PM
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Given that your partner has done long rides and "signed up" is a positive indicator that you both have the attitude to do the ride. I don't know how much time for training you have, but I would recommend a few of things. First is to work up to a ride of about 80% of the longest day. If you can make it through that, your chances of making it is pretty good for you two. Second, consider hydration and ride re-fueling carefully. Have a strategy and don't try new products or a new approach for the first time on the ride - make sure it works for you before your event, and finally, if you are not sure, line up a rescue ride that can pick you up and take you home after the first day. Sometimes knowing that you have the option will offer some stress relief during the ride as well as stoke your ego's not to use it.

Finally, use one of those sage sayings I often tell my stoker, as well as others when they are feeling low: "No matter how good or bad you feel, don't worry, it will change." (it's useful to say this outside the context of the event then only pull it out when someone is hurtin'.)

Good luck
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Old 06-23-18, 12:01 AM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Our longest ride on the tandem to date was today, 35 relatively flat miles (700 feet of elevation gain). Her comfort was fine, given that we just got back from a long vacation with no bike riding, so we're not in the best shape. Our tandem has a BodyFloat 2.0 on the stoker's stem, which probably helps (although it make it harder for her not to bounce when pedaling with a lot of effort).

We've done a number of rides more than 50 miles on our single bikes, and I certainly like the fact that a tandem goes faster on fairly level ground than a single. Neither of us cares how slow we go up hills, as long as we don't have to walk.
I can't see any way not to do lots of walking in 186 miles of Pacific Northwest awesomeness with the stock 52/42/30 triple on your Rodriguez. Did you change it yet? Have you at least done, say 50 miles of the proposed course route to see how she climbs in anger? As far as bouncing suspension posts goes, its kind of counter-intuitive, but the sweet spot for setting these things, and if they are any good at all they will have adjustable pre-load, well the magic happens when you set it so that it is juuuuust short of being completely locked out. Well #%$^ why use a suspension seat post at all then? Indeed. Why? We don't. But seriously, tighten that adjustment so it barely moves in normal riding. Only the biggest hits need to be softened.
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Old 06-23-18, 10:09 PM
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We now have 53/39/26 chain rings, and 11-34 rear cassette (changed from 53/42/30 and 11-32). We've done some long, severe hills, and believe that we should be able to get up any of the hills for this ride (slowly, yes, but pedaling up). And we will do lots more rides, including some long, steep climbs.
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Old 06-26-18, 06:19 PM
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TWOgether on the tandem!i
We are now ages 85 and 83 and still ride TWOgether about twice a week, not as far and not as fast . . . but still out there doing it!
Ridden 100+ centuries, hundreds of events and dozens of tandem rallies and over a quarter million miles as a duo and are now on tandem #5 .
Get out there and double your fun!
Pedal on!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 06-26-18, 08:28 PM
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Oh for goodness gracious, ride the tandem. As zona points out, it's twice the fun. On the flats, it's only 2/3 the work for the same speed. We're done double centuries on ours and RAMROD, 154 miles and 10,000'.

On event rides, we stay away from single bikes and prefer to ride by ourselves or with other tandems if possible. There will be other tandems on RSVP. Be on the lookout for new friends!
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Old 06-26-18, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
TWOgether on the tandem!i
We are now ages 85 and 83 and still ride TWOgether about twice a week, not as far and not as fast . . . but still out there doing it!
Ridden 100+ centuries, hundreds of events and dozens of tandem rallies and over a quarter million miles as a duo and are now on tandem #5 .
Get out there and double your fun!
Pedal on!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
So great to hear from you! I haven't seen a post in a while and we were a bit worried. Good to know you're still at it. We're now 142 and you give us hope for the future.
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Old 06-27-18, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
...On event rides, we stay away from single bikes and prefer to ride by ourselves or with other tandems if possible...
That's because it's basically impossible for singles and tandems to ride together if there are any hills at all. I rode a 300k on a single with a couple on a tandem last month, and every time it got even a little hilly we couldn't stay together. Tandems are so much faster downhill and so much slower uphill.
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Old 06-27-18, 09:56 AM
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I hope my wife and I continue to improve on the tandem. We are in our third year of tandeming, and we have been improving. I'm disappointed every time we take a ride and she chooses her single. But I leave it up to her. On Sunday, we did a big group ride, the Tour De Kingston, in Kingston, NY. We did a hilly 25 mile route. It was darned hard for her, and she was pretty wiped out at the end, and I wonder how we would have done on our tandem. But I also respect her because she wanted the challenge. Perhaps she feels the single bike builds her strength better. That could be. I'll ask her. Captaining the tandem is very challenging for me, and my stamina runs out sooner than on a single.
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Old 06-27-18, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
That's because it's basically impossible for singles and tandems to ride together if there are any hills at all. I rode a 300k on a single with a couple on a tandem last month, and every time it got even a little hilly we couldn't stay together. Tandems are so much faster downhill and so much slower uphill.
Some tandems are faster than others . . . I'm a pretty good tandem wheel-sucker on my single. There are many good wheel-suckers out there. OTOH, it's impossible to pull a tandem, no matter how good a single rider you are. The weight and thus momentum make them react very differently to terrain. Most good tandem teams will wind up pulling a train on an event ride. Advice to singles riders: never pass a tandem at or near the top of a hill. Really bad form.
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Old 06-27-18, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I hope my wife and I continue to improve on the tandem. We are in our third year of tandeming, and we have been improving. I'm disappointed every time we take a ride and she chooses her single. But I leave it up to her. On Sunday, we did a big group ride, the Tour De Kingston, in Kingston, NY. We did a hilly 25 mile route. It was darned hard for her, and she was pretty wiped out at the end, and I wonder how we would have done on our tandem. But I also respect her because she wanted the challenge. Perhaps she feels the single bike builds her strength better. That could be. I'll ask her. Captaining the tandem is very challenging for me, and my stamina runs out sooner than on a single.
We've found that stokers who are weaker than their captains improve faster as stoker than they do on their singles. OTOH, their single bike handling gets terrible after continually stoking for a while. So it's a big decision to take up stoking seriously. Stoker gets stronger, team has great fun, but stoker is kinda stuck in that seat. One of our group's best stokers broke her arm on her single in a descent in Spain. Wasn't used to judging her line anymore was what she said. I've known stokers to run straight into a curb on their single. On the 3rd hand, many captains are more expert bike handlers than their stokers. I know potential stokers who've been injured on their singles who would not have been injured had they been stoking for their SO.

My wife and I match HRs on our tandem. She sees my and her HR. I see only mine. She gets plenty of workout!

It can be a tough decision.
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Old 06-27-18, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Some tandems are faster than others
My point doesn't really have anything to do with the strength of the team. I was riding with a solo RAAM finisher and his wife, so it was a pretty strong team. As soon as it got steep, I wasn't able to keep up with them downhill anymore and needed a big uphill to catch up. If I happened to be with them at the start of a big uphill, it was hard to ride as slow as they had to go, and if they got ahead of me on a downhill with no uphill for me to catch up, I didn't see them until the next control.
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Old 06-27-18, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
snip... Advice to singles riders: never pass a tandem at or near the top of a hill. Really bad form.
This x1000
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Old 06-27-18, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
OTOH, it's impossible to pull a tandem, no matter how good a single rider you are. The weight and thus momentum make them react very differently to terrain.
I'm going to politely call BS on this, at least in certain circumstances.

We've done rides where beloved stoker and I were on the Co-Motion riding with our friends on singles. All either race, or did in the past, and are therefore pretty savvy at riding in groups and understanding paceline behavior. Most also have tandems in their quiver, so they understand the physics of the big bike.

The tandem did the bulk of the locomotive work, but when weakness was detected either on the flat or gradual uphills, a couple of singles would come forward and position themselves to shield the tandem from wind.

It's pretty cool when you can ride with savvy people.
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Old 06-27-18, 11:53 AM
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It's all just personal preference. I've ridden a tandem on quite a few 400k & 600k rides, and have friends that routinely do that as well.
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